Quick Lit: May 2019

Remember that time I got all caught up on my Quick Lit posts and swore to never get that far behind again? My, how long that resolution lasted. What was it – a whole month? Ha! It's old news at this point, but let's chat about what I read in May. I finished 26 books, and I'm reviewing 24 in today's post. I re-read of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, but I just wrote a full-length review for it last year and didn't need to revisit my thoughts on it. I also read The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez and posted a review for that back in June. As always, check out Modern Mrs. Darcy for Quick Lit reviews and recommendations from other readers.

SAVING FRANCESCA BY MELINA MARCHETTA – What is there for me to say about this book that I haven't already said before? It's about friendships, family, falling in love, and finding your voice. If you don’t think a 250-page book can accomplish that much, let me introduce you to the wonder that is Melina Marchetta. Inside this book, you’ll find a girl feeling lost at a new school and watching old friends fade away. But the best part? She meets people who show up at her lowest, listen to her at her loudest, and will love her for the rest of her life. I’ve never been part of a friend group this size, but in these pages I see the kind of friend I want to be. I'm So Obsessed With It.

THE PIPER'S SON BY MELINA MARCHETTA – This is a companion to Saving Francesca, a book that I've already raved about on the blog. But I couldn't help myself from revisiting my feelings after this recent re-read! My love for these characters and this story just continues to grow. It's so moving to see a hero that has lost his way and to watch the way his friends refuse to let him fall by the wayside. There's a lot of grief in these pages, but there's so much hope and love, too. If you're drawn to books with friendships and family at the heart, this one is for you. It stands on its own, but it's better when you already know and love these characters. I'm So Obsessed With It.

THE PLACE ON DALHOUSIE BY MELINA MARCHETTA – Jimmy's story (who we meet in Saving Francesca) has been a long time coming. Thankfully, Marchetta has proved once again that she's a masterful storyteller, and my heart can rest easy knowing Jimmy is finally okay. Marchetta packs so much emotion into this 288-page book. I'm astounded at how she does so much in so few words. Every moment feels as though it was written with purpose and packed with meaning. As with all of her books, it's about home, identity, and community. And, as always, I'm So Obsessed With It. I said almost nothing of substance about it, but just trust me that you need to read it.

AURORA RISING BY AMIE KAUFMAN AND JAY KRISTOFF* – I'm not typically drawn to science fiction, but Kaufman and Kristoff's Illuminae series is one of my obsessions. So, how was I supposed to pass up another series from them with a band of misfits fighting corruption?! This is written like a traditional book, unlike their other series, and I definitely missed that creativity here. Seven characters have their own point of views, and my biggest frustration with the book was how everyone sounded the same to me. The plot felt pretty predictable, and the hints of romance didn't feel earned. It was somehow both rushed and boring, and I'm just So Okay With It

CHINA RICH GIRLFRIEND BY KEVIN KWAN – Even better than Crazy Rich Asians! I was hooked on this story. Rachel and Nick are often the calm amidst the crazy, which can make them a little boring. But they took more of a backseat in the second book, so other characters got to shine. I love the class dynamics — the social standing that depends so much on where you’re from, where you got your money and how long you’ve had it. Heaven help you if you’re just a HENRY! “High Earners, Not Rich Yet,” for the uninitiated. And don’t even get me started on the food and fashion descriptions! I So Loved It and would be headed to China right now… if only I had a private jet on standby.

RICH PEOPLE PROBLEMS BY KEVIN KWAN – I had to pick this book up immediately after finishing the second to see how it all ended. And it certainly didn't disappoint! Kwan's writing isn't my favorite in any of the books, but he sucks me in with the over-the-top plots and people. I do think the characters could all use more development because that would give even more emotional weight to the plot. But I found it so entertaining regardless! I love this huge cast of characters, the way everything in the story was resolved, and how immersed I was in this culture. Kwan balances the social climbing and extravagance with more depth, and I So Loved It!  

IF I'M BEING HONEST BY EMILY WIBBERLEY AND AUSTIN SIEGEMUND-BROKA – I grabbed this from the library for the shallowest of reasons: I loved the cover. But thankfully, the story inside impressed me, too! It's a loose retelling of The Taming of the Shrew / 10 Things I Hate About You, and it was so perfect for my mood the day I picked it up. The popular but "mean girl" heroine decides to try to reinvent herself and make amends for the hurt she's caused, and the book did such a great job of exploring the line between self-improvement and changing your identity. It was so readable (and had a very cute romance) but also contained some depth I hadn't expected. I So Enjoyed It!

HOPE AND OTHER PUNCH LINES BY JULIE BUXBAUM – I've long been a fan of Buxbaum's books, dating all the way back to her adult fiction debut that I randomly discovered back in college (RIP Borders). And her most recent release was another hit for me! I've read several books this year that dealt with September 11th, but this is the only one that did it in a way that never felt emotionally manipulative or contrived. I thought the concept was so unique and written about sensitively. I appreciated how Buxbaum weaves both grief and laughter into these pages. I came to love both of these characters, and Buxbaum's voice always draws me in. I So Loved It

WITH THE FIRE ON HIGH BY ELIZABETH ACEVEDO – Even though I don't really enjoy cooking, I'm always drawn to books with a culinary component. And this one certainly fit the bill! I actually borrowed the audiobook from the library and loved hearing the author bring her own lyrical writing to life. The heroine is a teen mom, and I was rooting for her as she pursued her education and her passion for cooking. The romance was my least favorite aspect, though I was still so invested in the story overall. But it's the culinary elective she takes at school and the descriptions of the dishes she makes that elevated the whole book to another level for me. I So Enjoyed It

MISTRESS OF ROME BY KATE QUINN – The things I loved about Quinn’s more recent books are so evident in this one: complex characters that work their way into your heart, a richly-drawn setting that comes alive in your mind, and gorgeous writing that brings it all together into something magical. Quinn’s attention to detail and ability to sweep you up in a story is on full display on this book! There are terrible villains, cruel twists of fate, long-awaited reunions, surprising heroes, and deft political maneuverings. I wasn’t even interested in Ancient Rome before and now I’m ready to travel back in time... from the safety of my sofa, of course. I So Loved It.

MIRACLE CREEK BY ANGIE KIM – This tightly paced and perfectly plotted courtroom drama had me absolutely hooked. I couldn’t wait to unravel the mystery at its heart, but it was the way it explored life as an immigrant, the challenges of motherhood, and the autism community that made it unforgettable for me. In a genre that can easily be defined by shock value, it surprised me most with its honesty about human nature and the emotions it evoked. I keep thinking about the lengths a mother will go to for her child (and the ways they fail them), the shame of having your worst thoughts made public, the evil that goes unpunished, the mistakes that have a an unintended ripple effect, the “what ifs” that haunt you after a tragedy occurs, and having the courage to do the right thing even when it’s hard. I was so invested in the story and impressed by Kim’s writing. Having it set during the murder trial gave it just the right amount of tension, and shifting between various characters’ perspectives made me feel like I was sitting in the courtroom, being forced to judge for myself who was responsible for what happened that fateful night. I'm So Obsessed With It — and think it would make an excellent choice for book clubs!

THE UNLIKELY ADVENTURES OF THE SHERGILL SISTERS BY BALLI KAUR JASWAL* – I randomly received a copy of this book for review, which hadn't been on my radar before it appeared on my doorstep. The three British-born Punjabi Shergill sisters make a deathbed promise to their mother that they'll complete a pilgrimage to the Golden Temple to India. I loved the setting, following them on their journey, and uncovering the backstory of each sister. They're all dealing with their own private dramas, but their arguments and misunderstandings got very repetitive (though realistic for siblings). I So Liked It but found myself wishing for more emotional investment in the story. 

EMPRESS OF THE SEVEN HILLS AND LADY OF THE ETERNAL CITY BY KATE QUINN – The second book in this series, Daughters of Rome, is actually a prequel. I picked it up, expecting to love it, and ended up setting it aside around 150 pages in. It just wasn't working for me at all! But I still wanted to give the rest of the series a shot, and I'm so glad I did. Empress of the Seven Hills and Lady of the Eternal City truly follow Mistress of Rome. The hero is the son of the couple in the first book, and I was delighted to get to know him better. While the first book could be read as a standalone, these two books go hand-in-hand. The ending of Empress left me reaching for Lady immediately.

Both contained more of what I'd loved at the start of these series: complex characters, political plotting and ruthlessness, and a well-researched and richly-drawn historical setting. But let's me honest, I wasn't in it for the world... I'm allll about the emotion, and Quinn goes above and beyond delivering it. I was so caught up in this star-crossed love story, and the secondary characters stole my heart, too. Honestly, I had to pause at one point to Google some information on Roman emperors because I couldn't handle the stress of waiting to see how it would all play out. Thanks, history, for the spoilers. I So Loved It and can't wait to re-read all three! 

THE LIGHT WE LOST BY JILL SANTOPOLO – How dare Reese Witherspoon choose this for her book club? What drivel! I'm sorry, but this book felt like pure emotional manipulation. Sometimes that type of story works for me, but it decidedly did not in this situation. I liked Santopolo's writing style and quickly found myself sucked in by the quick, easy-to-finish chapters. Before I knew it, I had finished the book... and wished I could get my time back. I was so frustrated with these characters who are both so terrible that, in a way, they kind of deserve each other. I found nothing romantic about their story or their obsessive, all-consuming emotions and am So Over It, clearly.

THE PENDERWICKS IN SPRING AND THE PENDERWICKS AT LAST BY JEANNE BIRDSALL – I listened to the fourth and fifth books in this charming middle grade series and enjoyed the experience! It's bittersweet to watch these sisters grow up and to see their family change over time as the books shift to the younger characters' perspectives. I've mentioned before that this series reminds me of Little Women, and that holds true with these last two installments. Spring earned a So Enjoyed It from me, but At Last was simply So Okay With It. I missed hearing from the original Penderwicks and wanted more from the story. But the series is delightful overall!

PACHINKO BY MIN JIN LEE – I couldn't remember what prompted me to buy this book and figured I'd probably read a few pages before setting it aside. BUT THEN, I couldn't put it down! I devoured this generational saga set in Korea and Japan, marveling at all I learned and becoming so invested in the characters. It has a slow pace and occasionally feels choppy as it moves from one character to the next, often never to truly return to or resolve that storyline, but it worked for me. I was thinking of these characters long after I'd closed the last page. Two scenes/aspects really bothered me, but I still So Loved It overall and would highly recommend it. 

HOUSE OF DREAMS BY LIZ ROSENBERG – When this L.M. Montgomery biography crossed my radar, I had to pick it up! It's written with a young adult audience mind, and I did feel that was reflected in the writing. But Rosenberg is very forthcoming about the hardships  in Montgomery's life, including her mental health struggles and the possibility that her death was suicide. The writing style often felt at odds with the actual content, for me personally. I loved the added illustrations, but the book itself earned a So Okay With It. It was slow, and I just never felt motivated to pick it up. I loved Mary Henley Rubio's Montgomery biography, if you're looking for one.

SHADOW & BONE, SIEGE & STORM AND RUIN & RISING BY LEIGH BARDUGO – I chatted about these books before in my Series Speed Date feature, but my recent re-read called for an update. In 2014, these all merited a So Loved It rating from me. Sadly, my feelings aren't as strong now – I'm somewhere in the So Liked It and So Enjoyed It range. The world is definitely my favorite aspect of the series, and I think that's so creative and well done. But I found the story itself to be a little underwhelming on re-read, and I wasn't nearly as invested in the characters as I had been previously. I did listen to the audiobooks this time, and Lauren Fortgang was a lovely narrator.

To all the books I've been disappointed by...

Dear NECESSARY PEOPLE BY ANNA PITONIAK, you were... dare I say it... unnecessary for me to read. You're the friend that talks at you, telling you every little thing about themselves and just a little too in love with the sound of their own voice. And someone has tell you that you’re boring! You promised me a toxic friendship, but all I got was two women who barely interacted. You called yourself a thriller, but the only thrill I got was when I turned the last page. Your characters felt stereotypical, and I saw where this story was going from the very first page. Being set in the world of cable news was interesting, but I still wish I’d changed the channel. I'm So Over It.

Dear 99 PERCENT MINE BY SALLY THORNE, you were exhausting to read. Your plot may deal with a home renovation, but I think you needed some work, too. You’re just too aggressive for me! You lacked any sense of place or transitions between scenes, and your heroine was very... intense. It made me so uncomfortable to read! Also, I didn’t find your possessive relationship romantic — simply problematic. You had a lot of potential but just weren’t built to code. I wanted more cohesion, some sense that there'd been a plan behind your construction, but barely found any. I can’t give you even 1% of my heart. I hate to say it, but I'm So Over It.

Dear 84 CHARING CROSS ROAD BY HELENE HANFF, I’m very sorry that I didn’t find you charming at all. You just seemed rude and abrasive. Where was the long-distance friendship I was promised? This just sounded like business, was full of books I’d never heard of, and felt so disjointed. It's hard for me to believe how beloved you are in the bookish world. And your successor, THE DUCHESS OF BLOOMSBURY STREET, wasn’t any better. If Kelly acted like this when we traveled, I’d leave her behind. If these were my travel journals, I'd be too embarrassed to have my behavior in print forevermore. You have a pretty cover, but I wish I could return you to sender. I'm So Over It.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review.

What have you been reading lately?

1 comment

  1. Oh man, our feelings for 99 Percent Mine were so similar! I was optimistic about that one because of the particular romance trope it promised, but it let me down so badly that I still get sad thinking about it.

    But I am happy that you ended up liking If I'm Being Honest as much as I did! It was definitely a well-written story, and I like how the authors chose to portray our main character's growth over the course of the book.

    Also, I really want to finish reading the Crazy Rich Asians series! I read the first book in February and really liked it a lot, and I've heard from many others (including you) that the rest of the series continues to be fun and entertaining. I also have Pachinko on my to-read list, and definitely want to try to get to it in 2020!


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